Poll: Many Democrats Want More U.S. Support for Palestinians

A new AP-NORC poll finds division within both parties on U.S. involvement in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A new poll on American attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East finds about half of Democrats want the U.S. to do more to support the Palestinians, showing that a growing rift among Democratic lawmakers is also reflected in the party’s base.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds differences within both the Democratic and the Republican parties on the U.S. approach toward Israel and the Palestinians, with liberal Democrats wanting more support for the Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for the Israelis.

The survey also examined Americans’ opinions on the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The survey was conducted about three weeks into a ceasefire following a devastating 11-day war last month between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas militant rulers. The fighting killed at least 254 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.

The poll shows Americans overall are divided over U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. It also shows more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict than approve of it.

Among Democrats, 51% say the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Palestinians. The sentiment jumps to 62% among Democrats who describe themselves as liberal. On the other hand, 49% of Republicans say the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Israelis, a number that rises to 61% among those who say they’re conservative.

Overall, the poll shows that 29% of Americans say the U.S. is too supportive of the Israelis, 30% say it’s not supportive enough and 36% say it’s about right. In its approach toward the Palestinians, 25% say the U.S. is too supportive, 32% say it’s not supportive enough and 37% say it’s about right.

Broad but not unvarying support for Israel has been a tenet of U.S. domestic politics, as well as its foreign policy, for decades. Biden refrained from publicly criticizing Israel over civilian deaths and waited until the last days of fighting last month to openly press Israel to wind down its airstrikes on heavily populated Gaza.

The war highlighted differences among Democratic lawmakers and between some Democratic lawmakers and Biden on Israel policy. Dozens of Democrats in Congress called for Israel and Hamas to cease fire immediately, days before Biden openly did. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a progressive Vermont independent, urged the U.S. to be more even-handed in its approach to the conflict.

The poll found 56% of Americans disapprove of the way Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 40% who approve. While 75% of Republicans disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, so do 35% of Democrats.

Forty-two percent of liberal Democrats say they disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 31% of moderate and conservative ones.

That’s compared with just 9% of Democrats who disapproved of how Biden is handling his job in general. Overall, Biden’s job approval rating stands at 55%.

Since the cease-fire, Israel has transitioned to a new government that says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had openly challenged both Biden and President Barack Obama on U.S. policy in the Middle East and was seen as allying himself to Trump.

Some of the respondents in the survey, both Democratic and Republican, cited the comparatively limited time span of the war — in comparison, 50 days of fighting in 2014 — in saying they approved of Biden’s handling of the conflict.

The poll also shows just 19% of Americans think the U.S. should play a major role in finding a solution to the conflict, while 50% say it should play a minor role and 28% say it should play no role. Democrats and Republicans are largely in agreement on the size of the U.S. role in the conflict.

A majority of Americans, 57%, say they think there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, compared with 39% who say there is not a way. About 2 out of 3 Democrats think there is a way. Republicans are closely divided, with 50% saying there is and 45% saying there is not.

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